Netflix’s newest original limited series, Blood Sisters has been the talk of the town the past weekend. The performances of the actors, the production value, and the overall story are some of the elements of the successful series that’s gotten everyone gushing nonstop.

The Ebonylife x Netlfix collaboration has Nollywood’s audience excited about the prospect of Nollywood in the near future. The series has both film experts and novices critiquing and analyzing the bits and pieces of the series, which is a great thing for Nollywood. It also has members of the production team proud of their work and publicizing their contribution to the film’s success on social media.

While many gush over the series of unexpected turns in the plot, I’m a bit more interested in discussing the influence of two directorial approaches on the overall viewing experience. The story itself was developed by a group of over six writers and then interpreted visually by two different directors, Biyi Bandele and Kenneth Gyang. On one hand, Biyi Bandele directed the first two episodes, It’s A Bloody Affair and Run Sisters Run, while Kenneth Gyang directed the last two episodes, The Hunt and The Catch.

Although novelist, playwright, and filmmaker, Biyi Bandele, has a few films in his directing film reel, those films are known to be some of Nollywood’s groundbreaking films to date. His 2013 film adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of A Yellow Sun, was one of the first Nigerian films to merge popular Hollywood and Nollywood talents in its cast list, as well as to adapt one of Africa’s largest literary export. The film was rumored to have a budget of about eight million dollars, meaning resources weren’t spared to ensure a beautiful film. His 2015 film Fifty, is also famous for its visually engaging approach to Nigerian drama.

Bandele wasn’t afraid to bring his unique eye for simplistic yet effective shots to introduce the audience into Blood Sisters’ world. In It’s A Bloody Affair and Run Sisters Run, Bandele was fond of using easy motion shots. While he frequently used dolly shots, I noticed the frequent use of what others could call ‘shaky shots’ throughout the pilot episode. In these shots, the camera seemed to constantly wobble slightly. Granted it could have been simply attributed to a cameraman with shaky, I believe those movements added to inflicting subconscious emotions on the audience. The shaky shots created a sense of instability, uncertainty, and unease throughout the entire episode, leaving them slightly uncomfortable in each shot, longing for something dramatic to pop up.

In addition to the aforementioned, Bandele’s work in the first two episodes was perfect in elevating the film’s suspense. The first two episodes were used to ‘set the ground’ for the characters and the leading plot, and while not trying to be over technical with the shots, I believe Biyi Bandele did just that. As a result of his creative decision to go with easy not-so-technical shots, he allowed the audience to be far more engrossed and moved by the story than be awestruck by overly technical shots. Although keeping it simple, his choice of shots in elevating the suspense were effective. For example, he made frequent use of tight close-ups to intensify moments and characters, even if the moments or characters seemed nonthreatening. For example, we were introduced to Kehinde Bankole’s character via a close-up shot, therefore revealing a bit about her character’s domineering and dubious nature.

It’s was also enjoyable letting the characters drive the suspense, rather than the camera. For example, when Kemi shot Kola, it was through Kola’s facial expression till his fall to the ground revealing Kemi with the gun, that captured that entire moment. Whereas he could have opted for an over-the-shoulder shot of Kemi shooting Kola, giving the camera all the credit.

The transition from Run Sisters Run to The Hunt, is seamless and unnoticeable mainly because the first shot of the latter episode is a continuation of the last shot of the former episode. While it is initially unnoticable, it starts to feel different. The change of scenery, wardrobe, and introduction of new characters deeper in the episode changes the entire of feel of the story.

While at the start there were no significant changes in the feel of the story, Award-winning director, Kenneth Gyang, started to slowly place the audience in a special spectator seat. One which we first received at Kola’s funeral. While he could have used wide shots to capture the entire funeral congregation, or straightforward medium shots to capture Femi’s speech, Gyang carefully placed the camera (us) in the midst of the congregation, thereby indicating we’re now somehow thrown into this fiasco.

Gyang continues this approach through the rest of the episode and the next, by infusing snap zoom shots. These shots are used to invoke urgency or imminent danger, however, it sometimes replicates mockumentary filming style, as seen in NBC’s The Office. Although I initially felt some of the zoom-ins were utterly random and unnecessary, I now see how the director could have been trying to create both of the above-mentioned effects. For example, the first of the zoom-in shots was used in the scene Uduak (Kate Henshaw) visited the Inspector General and presented him with a briefcase of money. The zoom-in was used to invoke the feeling of oncoming danger for Kemi and Sarah.

Another use of the zoom-in can be found in the family dinner scene in the final episode, The Catch. The scene where Timeyin walked in on Uduak, Femi, and Olayinka’s dinner. While the constant zoom-ins and whip pans were used to somehow convey danger and intensify the moment, it also portrayed the ludicrous nature of the entire debacle.

All in all, the series was exceptional in every way. It was evident the entire production team were intentional about each decision they took and put in the required work to make the series a success. While it’s not easy to have multiple creative leads on a production, Biyi Bandele and Kenneth Gyang were two peas in a pod that did an excellent job in weaving their creative ideas perfectly to deliver this masterpiece that is Blood Sisters

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